2am on the morning of the 15th. I have just go back to the house after a very long day, both in time and distance, so apologies now if my ramblings become incoherent or indeed just suddenly stop..
Arriving at HQ by 8.25am to put names in the hat for the "early bird" launch lottery, I asked around for a recommendation for a tyre garage so that I could get the car fixed, and then headed off to one of the local garages. Tony, the garage owner,ordered in a budget tyre for tomorrow and lent me a spare wheel to keep me mobile - that way the cost to the team will be $140 rather than $400. Good job. Tony.
Back at HQ and this mornings briefing started with a review of Task 6 which was stopped due to high winds. At the time of the "stop" many pilots had infringed CTAF airspace which would normally lead to penalties being applied, but when going back twenty minutes to the official scoring point, none of the pilots had by then strayed in to the airspace - so no penalties. Phew. On a much more positive note, Carls rescoring on Task 5 had been offically recongised and he won a voucher for third place, while Kathleen won the reward for best female pilot on the day.
So on to today's task, and with the weather forecast indicating a 8-12 knot South Easterly, a 250km downwind race to goal was set. 250km? We would be lucky to cover that kind of distance in a full round of the British Open Series, let alone for one task! Kath and Dave had won early launch slots, with Dave No 1 in the Green channel, and Kath No.1 in Red.
I was really hoping that Dave would break his run of bad luck and get the results he most definitely deserves - as always he was perfectly prepared and ready to launch in good time.
Kathleen on the other hand was having a nightmare start to the day. As Dave launched on the blast of the hooter, and with her glider now back in one piece and rigged ready to fly, Kathleen started preparing her harness only to find that the "angle of dangle" string had broken. As Steve and I tried to find an appropriate replacement, a fellow pilot luckily had the exact right material for a repair.
|Carl sporting a new line in flying gloves|
Unfortunately, Kathleen was also meant to be launching at this time - normally if you are not ready then you go right to the back of the queue, but the organiser looked leniently on the situation and allowed her to slot back in once the repair had been made. Good, so now Kathleen would be able to join the rest of the British gaggle that were climbing out well above the airfield. Fifty feet in the air and the weak link broke. Quickly getting the glider on to a trolley that had been towed down to us by one of the quad bike ground crew, I wheeled it back to the front of launch, expecting to get an immediate re-light due to the weak link breaking. But no. Back of the line for you, Mrs Rigg. Right, time to put my official Team GB Manager hat on, so off I trot to see the Meet Director Davis Straub.
|Kath suffers a weak link break|
Luckily there had been a misunderstanding between him and the launch marshals so as soon as Kathleen was ready, she was slotted in quickly for a tow which ended up with a nice climb over the airfield. By this time, all the other Brits were already launched and at height, so with the first Start Gate approaching, Steve and I set off for the long chase and retrieve...
The route to the goal line at Hermidale could take you one of three ways: direct using gravel roads; semi direct using minor tarmac roads; or indirect using fast highways. I opted for the minor tarmac roads - with the space saver spare tyre still being used, it was not worth using a super fast road as I was meant to be limited to 80kmh, nor was it feasible to use the gravel tracks which might lead to another puncture.
As soon as I set off, it became clear that the team were flying very fast. Carl, Gordon, and Gary had taken the first Start Gate, while Dave, Kath, Tony and Grant took the second - I was already some 30 kilometres behind the lead gaggle by the time I set off and had to drive very quickly if I was to keep in contact with them. I am pretty sure I didn't exceed the 80kmh safety limit for using the space saver tyre....
Seriously, I could not believe the speed with which the task was being flown. Stopping for fuel set me back 20 kilometres again. Push on, and keep up. At this rate i would not be there to greet them in the goal field, something that was looking increasingly likely as time went. As Carl was playing around with dust devils, Dave called to say that he was getting low. Not again, please. Give the guy a break.
Radio Silence - as happens when pilots get low, they do not communicate frequently on the radio as they are fully focussed on finding the lifesaving lift that will take them sky high again.
Carl: "That was fun playing with the dusty..."
Nothing from Dave.
Grant: "Climbing at 8 up..."
Nothing from Dave.
Kathleen: "Gliding at 6000'.."
Come on, Dave, talk to me... Then:
"Dave climbing in a 6 up...." That a boy!
So, Team GB, all on track, flying fast, and all making very good progress. 160km to goal, 150..., 130..., 100... the numbers just kept dropping. Slowly but surely Grant was managing to reel in the leaders and at the 50km to goal mark he caught up with the lead gaggle containing not only Carl, Gordon and Gary but also Manfred Ruhmer (AUT), Christian Clech (ITA), Zak Majors (USA) and Primoz Gricar (SLO), to name but a few. If he could keep this up, then a win was surely a possibility.
Having to take a dog-leg route away from the track line, I lost contact with the team for about 20 minutes. The race was on for me to get to goal in time to see the pilots arriving and if necessary relay important information eg terrain, wind, obstacles etc. As I neared the goal radius, it became apparent that the gliders would be landing on the south side of the main road and railway line, away from the trees and power lines, but making retrieve problematic. The suggested landing field was away from the goal radius, so knowing how fine the calculations and decisions are to make the goal line as quickly as possible, I knew that most of the pilots would not have enough height to glide to that field.
|Trying to find goal|
|Dave celebrates the return of the mojo|
|Gary derigs after excellent flight|
|A personal best for Tony|
After the long drive home (some three hours), arriving back at around midnight, I dropped by Comp HQ to offer Wesley the scorer a lift back to the house we share, to check scores, and to have a cheeky beer. I was not prepared for the news that Wes gave me: on the previous days task, a complaint had been made and upheld concerning airspace violation - penalties had now been applied leading to some of the top pilots receiving a DSQ for the day. As I left the building, the proverbial was already hitting the fan!
Tomorrow will be an interesting day. But until then,
WELL DONE TEAM GB, I AM PROUD OF YOU!
Full results: http://www.forbesflatlands.com/results.html